The Hidden Persuaders

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The Return of the Hidden Persuaders - American Affairs Journal

Advanced search. Journal Journal of Advertising Volume 37, - Issue 1. Submit an article Journal homepage. Michelle R. Pages Published online: 04 Mar Original Article. The Hidden Persuaders : Then and Now. Article Metrics Views. Article metrics information Disclaimer for citing articles.

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Martin P. Block et al. Journal of Advertising Volume 14, - Issue 3. Published online: 29 May Russell W. Belk Journal of Advertising Volume 46, - Issue 1.


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Of course Coke was the red wholesomeness of tradition and majority taste, and Pepsi was the younger, blue, less popular choice of a rebellious new generation! My year-old self was sure of it.

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Vance Packard had grown up in a different world, in a Methodist farm family in Pennsylvania during the s. Automobiles were still a novelty. He had three books on the best-seller lists within four years. Packard had lived on the cusp of two eras, and what fascinated me as a teenage reader was how close in time he had been to the invention of brands that seemed as solid and permanent to me as trees and stones.

The Return of the Hidden Persuaders

Packard wanted brands to certify purity or quality, to make an old-fashioned fact-based appeal to citizens who had price and effectiveness in mind. Scientists of motivation, on the other hand, were trying to puzzle out the reasons for impulsive and even self-destructive purchasing, then tailor images and packaging accordingly. A lot of their research makes sense. People often answer questionnaires by giving idealized pictures of their habits rather than confessing their real weaknesses and needs.

How can you know what buyers want unless you probe them more skillfully? Cake-mix makers, for example, had ruined their product by engineering too much for convenience: they told housewives to just add water and turn on the oven. But Packard saw nothing benign when the same techniques were applied to the presidential election. Conventions would be choreographed by emissaries from Hollywood. In any case, candidates can hardly opt out. He lost. View all New York Times newsletters.

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You just need to send those unspoken desires a huge amount of spam. Spam, like direct mail, billboard advertising and the repetition of names, slogan and logos, became the real future of advertising: overwhelming volume combined with clever placement.


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  • This raises the question of whether consumer education and advertising criticism ever help consumers, especially the young. Yet, speaking for myself, the inoculation techniques did make an impact. As if something free to everybody could be sold! This was before the age of Poland Springs. Tell us what you think.


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